Monday, May 19, 2014

Brethren of the Coast

So, you say you like Pirates and all, but you do not want your scurvy sea dogs mixed with your orcs and elves like they do it in Freeport?  Razor Coast seems mildly appealing, but you have no use for weresharks?  What I am hearing is that you are a pirate purist?  Hmm, well let me reach into my bag of tricks and see what I can come up with...

For most of the 17th century some combination of England, France, Spain, and Holland were at war with one another.  Who was at war with whom, and who was allied changed seemingly at the drop of a hat.  When looking at the history of that era, war seems to have been the end and not the means.  Often these wars and alliances spilled over into the western hemisphere, both in North America and in the Caribbean.  This was sometimes very confusing for the parties involved, as the enemy you just attacked is likely to be your friend next week.  As anyone who has studied both history and gaming can tell you, those are the perfect conditions for a campaign.

With such a long time period to cover, how does one narrow down the focus?  As I get older, I realize that every time I run a game just might be the last time I ever run that game.  If I am only going to get one more shot at an Earthbound pirate campaign, then I have to look to my favorite source material:  the movie The Black Swan.  The one based on the book by Rafael Sabatini, not the one with the lesbian ballerinas.  Although...  No.  Stay focused.  I mean this one:

"Yes, my dear.  All the combs in the Caribbean are on that
ship.  Prepare to Board!"
Unlike many pirate movies of this era, The Black Swan is readily located in real history.  Commercial rivalry between Spain and Cromwell's England led to the war between those nations beginning in 1654. The French allied with Cromwell while loyalists to the Royal Crown of England sided with the Spanish.  In 1655, the English captured the island of Jamaica and established a center of government in Port Royal.  Soon, the English governor realized his capitol had very little protection and invited the Brethren of the Coast to make Port Royal their home as well.  Pirates throughout the Caribbean flocked to the city as it was more centrally located near Spanish territories than the French pirate stronghold of Tortuga.  Eventually, many of the pirates earn the (relatively) more legitimate status of English Privateers.

I think they just recycled this ensemble
from his role in Zorro.  Shame he did
not keep the mask.

The movie takes place after peace is declared and one of the most successful English pirates, Henry Morgan, returns to Jamaica as governor with a mandate to clear the seas of his pirate pals.  Tyrone Power plays Jamie Waring, Morgan's right hand Captain who runs afoul of the pirates who were his former friends.  Waring has to deal with English noblemen in league with the pirates, rivals for the hand of Maureen O'Hara, privateers who are convinced he is still a pirate, and the actual pirates themselves.  Sadly, he is also forced to wear this unfortunate outfit when he tries to go legit.  Tyrone's only real defeat in the movie seems to have come at the hands of the costumer.  Mercifully, he quickly loses the hat and cape.

I cannot imagine Henry Morgan looking
like anyone other than Laird Cregar.
If I ran a game in this era, however, I would prefer to back the date up to 1657 when the Brethren are first invited to protect Port Royal.   The players would all play sea dogs ready to ply their trade in service of their flag.   In addition to fighting the Spanish, they players can become involved in hunting the pirates who insist on preying on the shipping of the English and their French allies, the machinations of the Royalists that threaten to undo the government, and perhaps even embark on secret diplomatic missions for the governor. This gives the players the opportunity to rub elbows with Henry Morgan before he becomes governor.  If they have acquitted themselves well, Morgan may ask them to come along on his next big expedition.  Morgan had a reputation for making everyone who sailed with him rich.

1 comment:

  1. Pirates! not sure about the wereshark bussiness, but otherwise does it really matter the particular flavor of Piratey goodness? I say no, not as long as there is still rum and good natured brawling!